Sister Sin – Standing Apart from the Crowd

Sunday, 26th July 2015

One might say that standing out from the crowd is a helpful quality. If that’s the case, then consider Sister Sin extraordinary. In this regard, the Swedish metal group has many things that stick in their favor. For one, when most think of Sweden, they tend to think of the vast export of melodic death metal (even if that has become a bit passé in recent years) – not traditional heavy metal, despite a few notable exceptions. Then there’s their label, Victory Records, long known more for its history with hardcore and metalcore acts than anything up Sister Sin’s alley. Lastly, there’s vocalist Liv Jagrell, who can shout her lungs out like the best of them, veering far from the stereotypes of usual female-fronted acts.

Five albums in, Sister Sin is holding strong. Their latest release, 2014’s Black Lotus, continued the band’s upward reach to fans across the world. Bringing us to the current tour – being a part of this year’s Mayhem Festival. A huge opportunity for the band, and one that they again, stand apart from being a part of the Victory Records stage. The band has done some off-dates on the tour, allowing DR to catch them on a recent date in Poughkeepsie, NY. We were able to catch with vocalist Liv Jagrell and guitarist Jimmy Hiltula after a rousing headlining set. Obviously, chat about the Mayhem Fest was center-stage, as was Liv’s Penthouse photoshoot from earlier this year. Read on…

Dead Rhetoric: So does being on Mayhem Festival this year make up for last year when you were on a leaked list but not actually on the festival?

Jimmy Hiltula: Yeah, absolutely.

Liv Jagrell: It’s hard to compare. I guess it would have been good to have been on that year too, because there were a lot of good bands and big headliners. But this year, I think that we kind of stand out from the rest of the bands, which also makes it very good.

Hiltula: Last year, we were in the studio anyways. So we were locked up [laughs]! We are super excited to be on the Mayhem Festival this year. It’s the biggest tour in the US for us so far; we’ve been here a couple times but this year it’s like…fucking Mayhem Fest!

Dead Rhetoric: So it’s going well so far?

Hiltula: Very good. We kind of standout compared to the other bands on the Victory stage. We’ve had a great response from the audience anyways. We reach out to a lot of people and new fans. It’s huge – a couple thousand each day. In the end, it’s a lot of people that we reach out to so it’s good.

Dead Rhetoric: Likewise, Sister Sin stands out among the Victory Records roster. Do you feel it works to the advantage of the band to be different than the label’s usual offerings?

Hiltula: It really does. Victory is a good label and they’ve been around for a long time. They support us. It’s working well.

Dead Rhetoric: Is it a challenge to trim things down from all of your albums into a solid 6 song set?

Hiltula: We have 25 minutes on Mayhem. Before we left Sweden, it was like…how are we doing to do this? Can we fit 6 songs or 5 songs?

Jagrell: We even had to take some of our favorite songs out because they are too long.

Hiltula: On the set, you have to be really quick between the songs as well. You can’t stand there and talk shit.

Jagrell: And no long guitar solos!

Hiltula: [Laughs] Then we have to cut two songs out. But yeah, it’s quite a challenge to build a good set for 25 minutes.

Dead Rhetoric: As a European band, how do you feel that Mayhem Festival compares to being on a summer European festival circuit?

Hiltula: The big difference is that Mayhem is a travelling festival. We don’t have that in Europe. This is different but it’s really nice. It’s a big thing and it’s very well organized I think. The summer festivals in Europe are awesome as well – we are playing Summer Breeze later in August. Because this is a traveling festival, all the bands become more like a family.

Jagrell: It’s really positive, being on a tour festival.

Dead Rhetoric: You’ve been out on the road a lot with various bands at this point. What are some of the most positive experiences you’ve had?

Jagrell: I’d have to say Russia. Every time we are there, it’s overwhelming!

Hiltula: Yeah absolutely. The Doro tour, that was fucking awesome! Doro is like a huge idol. We opened up for Motorhead like 6 years ago – we got to open up for them on two nights. That was just mind-blowing. Motorhead are childhood heroes for everyone in the band.

Jagrell: It’s still Russia for me; it was overwhelming because I didn’t expect it.

Hiltula: We’ve been to Russia two times. People are crazy there. I mean, there are crazy people everywhere – in Europe and the US. Crazy metal fans! That’s the thing with metal and hard rock fans – it’s global and unifying. It doesn’t matter where you come from. I truly love that.

Dead Rhetoric: You have that kind of timeless sound. Looking at the crowd here tonight – there’s a diversity even in smaller numbers. Do you feel that you appeal to the older generation and the younger generation?

Hiltula: Absolutely. Our backbone is classic metal. But we don’t want to sound retro in that way, like many other bands do. We want to sound updated and fresh. I guess we have a good range. Younger kids can dig it, as well as the older crowd. It’s kind of a big span.

Dead Rhetoric: Being from Sweden, did you take some of the influences from the heavier side as well, like Dark Tranquillity and In Flames?

Hiltula: Kind of, for me at least in my playing. I grew up on thrash metal and the Swedish scene. A lot of black metal and death metal. In Flames is one of the biggest metal bands from Sweden, so I’m kind of influenced by them. But our main influence is still the old school metal. If I put it into context, writing a song – I listen to a lot of music, a lot of new music. But for some reason, in the end, it’s classic metal. I love a lot of new bands; In Flames is not a new band, but one of my favorite Swedish bands, absolutely.

Dead Rhetoric: As a female-fronted band, do you feel you have to work a little bit harder to be taken seriously as there is that stigma about having a female vocalist – even though you don’t have that sound?

Hiltula: I fucking hate that labeling thing – “female fronted,” or whatever.

Jagrell: I just think about girls in corsets [begins singing operatically]!

Hiltula: There’s a lot of opera stuff…

Jagrell: And that’s not us.

Hiltula: When the band first started, we had a dude before you…

Jagrell: No, there was no dude – you were looking for a dude.

Hiltula: Yes, that’s right. Then Liv came along and she sang the balls off all the guys. And it was like, “yeah, you are in the band.”

Jagrell: I think in the beginning, we had to fight a little bit harder because we were female-fronted, in order to earn that respect. Nowadays, a lot of people come up to us and tell us that they like us because we are not the typical female-fronted band. We aren’t the opera/corset kind of stuff.

Hiltula: But it’s too bad – people labeling. I hate labels like that but, it is what it is.

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